Monday, June 20, 2011

So You Think You Can Dance - Top 20 (8x06, 8x07)

Sometimes, I don't get this show.

I can, for instance, think of one person who could've been eliminated this week.

I wonder why Nigel asked Mitchell and Robert to dance again, since they both more or less repeat their solos (Robert's throws some variations into his, but it's largely the same routine), and which I doubt would (and evidently did not) make a difference in terms of assessing the one over the other. Were Nigel et al just buying time to try to decide? If so, well, we know how that turned out.

Looking on the bright side of things (for once), having dancers dance again shows the amount of preparation involved in any given solo -- not only do they have to have the right music ready, they all have a more-or-less specific routine in mind from which they deviate at their own risk. Viewers who remember season 2 saw the same thing for a spell, when dancers who were just eliminated were given one last chance to show Ameriker what they eliminated, in which case they just performed the same solo prior to getting axed. (This arrangement didn't last long -- the only two contestants whom I distinctly remember doing two solos are Martha and Dmitry.)

On the whole, though, another week with the top 20 will give us a clearer picture of what the dancers can do, and maybe another week with 20 dancers will give us a second chance for the usual Top 20 Wade number that we missed out on this year. It's double-edged sword, however: The one bad thing about another week with this many kids -- I mean, aside from having to endure Robert's infantile histrionics -- is that 20 is a lot of dancers to keep track of! Just for starters, we have three whole girls whose initials are MM, thus causing me no small pain when I'm taking notes. (This from a show that already has two MM judges/choreographers; they might as well go for trifecta and invite Eminem on to perform.) I've had to come up with some mnemonics to straighten out the M&Ms, thusly:

That'd be Miranda Malesky. Normally ringletted with a glorious head of curls, when she pulls it back, she kind of looks like Sarah Silverman.

Or maybe not. (Incidentally, I'm surprised how GIS'ing Sarah Silverman can lead to... inappropriate images with extraordinary rapidity.)

In the spirit of the results episode, let me try again: Miranda looks like she was born in the 1940s... err, let me try a third time: I mean, she looks fab in a minidress and go-go boots, a veritable (and absolutely adorable) mod.

She ought to think seriously about rocking that as her everyday look, because she would be, in the words of the Bard, "Admired Miranda! / Indeed, the top of admiration!"

Melanie Moore. Short hair, which makes remembering her much easier, as, I suppose, is her apparent status as early-season frontrunner.

Missy Morelli, self-described sexpot who, a lot of people including are claiming, bears a striking resemblance to season 3's own alleged sexpot, Jessi Peralta.

A recent exchange I had with friend Areen on their putative similarities:


So is that a yes or a no?

I have no idea! I look at Missy, and then I look at Jessi, but all I see is the face Jessi's making.


How about now?
And how can I argue with that?

Sometimes I don't get this show.

I've noticed that the duets which elicit standing ovations make no impression on me, something that's been happening for at least a couple seasons now (or, actually, forever). This time, the two routines that immediately set me to thinking about my deficiency are Melanie and Marko's statue number, and the dreaded quickstep. I fail to see anything about the statue routine that stands out -- and I'd like to reiterate that it's a failure on my part -- from the choreo (or as last week's Useless Guest Judge would say, "ography"), to the dancing, to the costuming, to the music. In short, another Emmy-worthy (hahaha whatever) routine that I don't care for.

On the other hand, I actively wish that I'd "gotten" the quickstep, since it involves a pre-season favorite of mine who's the world's motherloving champ in quickstep dancing a charming routine, exemplified by the one section where Iveta and Nick peel apart while both maintaining their frames before getting back into closed position. But alas, the rest of the routine doesn't live up to this moment; I'd like to say that the fault lies with the costuming -- the ruffles of Iveta's skirt completely swallow up the lines of her legs and, further, distract me from her feet, which I assume are a fairly important component in quickstep appreciation -- but I'm open to the possibility that it just isn't a hot routine. (Perhaps the season I watched of SYTYCD Australia spoiled the US version for me -- nearly every week Down Under featured an undeniably classic routine, and often, multiple great performances.)

I don't say that to separate myself from everyone else as a snob, because I'd love to love love to enjoy all these barnburners that I'm otherwise missing out on.

But you know what? I think I make this complaint nearly every single season, so whatever, I'm going to look at the half-full part of the glass: the three routines I liked, in ascending order:

Sasha and Alexander - Contemporary
Sasha dominates this number. I can't say whether or not Alexander's face is too empty, as the judges point out, because Sasha grabs the spotlight and never lets go. She has such pristine movement, and her limbs are just so great to look at. I don't mean to say that she's got legs like Iveta, who, by the way...

... what great gams! What stunning stems!

But back to Sasha's ineffable limbs: she has a quality, like water or something equally ungraspable, that captivates me. Magnetism. Maybe that's it.

Ryan and Ricky - Lyrical Hip Hop
Kind of on the same tip as the Sasha/Alexander number, one of the dancers here is the sun and stars, and the other is a peripheral satellite. Ricky isn't bad -- he's a little loose in places, and sometimes he looks like he's moving as opposed to dancing hip hop -- but I did not expect Ryan to bring the murder. She's obviously danced hip hop before given how sharp and articulated her movements are. Although I agree that her interpretation of the routine's emotional narrative is shallow, I'm amazed at how well she handles the dancing. I can honestly buy into her as another of the season's beasts. And hey, she's going after the hipster vote, too:

And a shout out to Christopher Scott. Even if his number is, story-wise, a variation of NappyTabs, he's anything but a rote regurgitation of "jazz with chest pops" (courtesy of MGK)... or maybe he is, but Ryan, beast that she is, lifts everything out of the realm of sentimentality.

Chris and Ashley - Hip Hop
Never underestimate the power of cleverness and fun, even if both of them seem to tire near the end. (Chris Scott, SYTYCD hip-hop savior?)

Mind you, all of these are far from perfect, but they're the ones I unambiguously appreciated.

Now, back to the hate:

Miranda and Robert - Jive
An energetic shambles. I'm baffled at the praise it gets from the judges, because neither Miranda nor Robert are grounded -- they both float throughout the dance -- and Robert has a lot of trouble dancing through the transitions. On top of that, the routine is like a desert in terms of closed holds/partnering (I'm only now cluing in to the lack of genuine ballroom in SYTYCD ballroom numbers).

What's worse, Robert actually talks like Urkel at one point during rehearsals, and I cannot respect a man who willingly patterns himself on Urkel. In the annals of iconic black nerds from the '90s, he couldn't have picked Carlton instead and thus mitigate 25% of my hate for him?

I'm also sorely disappointed in Wadi and Missy's Jazz. Wadi confirms my fears here -- stiff back, a similar problem with dancing through transitions, a general reluctance to embrace the fierceness of the parts of the routine in between the big tricks. In short, he looks lost.

At least the group routine is awesome, which makes two Sonya routines featuring a buttload of dancers that I like (dating back to another last season). I think I like her best when she plays around with stylized anonymity (which is my favorite aspect of the Jabbawockeez, by the way) and abrades all the nuances and tics of the individuals into something homogenized, cold, mechanistic, and this time, a little bit sleazy.

The asynchronous head-bobbing that bookends the routine slays me.

How far we've come! I remember a time when a season was half-over before we started getting shirtlessness as a matter of course, but here's Alexander in his first introduction onto the show:

So he technically has a vest on -- give him time, and I'm sure that'll be gone, to be replaced by a Speedo. (And how a Speedo might replace a vest, I'll defer to the fervid imaginations of you, my dear readers.)

Despite my kvetching about Robert, I'm stunned at the lack of an obvious COREY (i.e. tween heartthrob) for me to loathe this season. Whom do we have that might fit the bill before the season's out?

Jess? Too obsequious. And with his desperate attempts at being entertaining (his "weird" "noises," his use of baby profanity), he's like an infantile version of Robert, which I guess translates to not even being a gleam in a face-puller's eye.

Nick? Too tall.

Maybe Alexander? He'd be unbearably pretty if he only got rid of that beard. Also, are swarthy types allowed to become COREYs? (The only one that comes to mind is Nathan, but he's an exception, not the rule.)

To be honest, the closest thing to a tween magnet in fact crosses the gender divide in the form of Melanie -- a quirky, relatable girl who nonetheless has something that makes her amazing and special, i.e. her dancing. Tween catnip, in other words. I'm mildly surprised she hasn't change her name to Bella by now.

Let me it be said that I do once in a while indulge in a cheap shot or two:

Or three: Jordan's solo makes up in vigor what it lacks in class.

Yeah, glad I'm not the only one who noticed.

Here's a better look:

And she's apparently a big fan of Alexander's...

... about which Christopher Scott seems put out.

Either that, or he's pissed at Ryan Di Lello's giant meat-head for blocking his view.

Using my magic internet powers, I have unearthed Cat Deeley's filmic debut, entitled, "Seduction of the Cheezburgers." It looks sort of like a student film, so pardon the quality. (Rated PG-13 for suggestiveness, adult situations, and pattie-on-pattie action.)

Hooray for happy endings!


momo said...

Tadddddd and Jordan clearly did not make an impression! Jordan has a lot of fans in the dancer fan community, but I dislike her solos intensely. Tadd may be one of those charming dark horses who lasta longer than one expects, despite his lack of partnering training.

The quickstep was surprisingly competent given that the man wasn't a ballroomer, and Jason G. covered Nick's lack of experience very well. His frame wasn't totally sucktastic and she backled him the whole way, but he did a very respectable job on the footwork, speed, and character of the dance. He looked credible. The truth about some ballroom genres on TV is that they just don't read well if you don't know the dance; the really hard part about quickstep is making it look effortless that you are essentially running really fast and then stopping on a dime in a floaty kind of way. Nick has charmed a lot of the public, and he also is more than a "tapper" because he grew up in a dance studio and has had extensive dance training in many styles. Ivette polarizes because the youngsters think she's too old, although I find her absolutely charming. I think they make a great couple for that reason, and Nick is smart enough to know that her extensive teaching experience (she coaches the Yale ballroom team) means he's getting top drawer personal ballroom instruction with a pro. Lucky him!
I tuned out the gushing over the statue dance, but I did watch it again a few times, because it was clearly the crowd favorite (most reblogged on tumblr!) and the dancing is just gorgeous, even if you don't favor that style. The connection and partnership between the two really elevated this dance over, say, Sasha and Alexander, where she was fierce and he was her beautiful carrier: a good role in a ballet, maybe, but not for this show. Alexander comes across as not very bright in his interviews, so I don't see him lasting, although he is rather gorgeous.
Urkel just bugs. When he is not doing his schtick, he actually sounds smart, but he is the single most annoying dancer this show has ever had. Jess bugs most of the time he's talking, but then he has some dancing moments where he redeems himself because his center when he turns is stunning, and he never holds back.

Sara said...

Yeah...I hate the surprises. Stick with the program, NIGEL!

Even if the statue routine didn't blow you away, you at least have to agree MeMo has beautiful lines. I find her extremely refreshing from the more in-your-face-look-at-my-crotch jazz girls. I'm hoping she fades back into the background for a while, otherwise..backlash!

Wadi and Missy's jazz was severely overrated. And am I the only one that is not impressed by Sasha and Iveta?

Sure, whatever. Yeah, big titles. But I can't look at her without thinking she's ruined her skin from over-tanning.

And what's the deal with all the Jordan love? She grates me.

Finally, someone that appreciates SYTYCD Australia!

Leee said...

You know, you'd think that I'd be on board with someone whose stated aspiration is to become a Pussycat Doll, but that's a theory that clearly doesn't apply in real-life.

I definitely think that Tadd's had some dance training before, or at least some classes (a la Joshua); out of all the hip-hop boys, he looked the most comfortable out of his designated style.

The truth about some ballroom genres on TV is that they just don't read well if you don't know the dance

And since there's just about never been a good quickstep on SYTYCD, there you go!

I've lurked a bit on other forums where Iveta is called a cougar, which dismays me if only because I'm actually older than her. Like, if she's a cougar, does that make me a dirty old man? Gah.

Even if the statue routine didn't blow you away, you at least have to agree MeMo has beautiful lines.

On a purely superficial level, MeMo has relatively short arms that I focus on rather than her legs, but otherwise, you're right, she's got wonderful lines.

Sure, whatever. Yeah, big titles. But I can't look at her without thinking she's ruined her skin from over-tanning.

Yeah, she hasn't helped herself out as far as skin care goes; unfortunately, that seems to be an occupational hazard.

Finally, someone that appreciates SYTYCD Australia!

I wish that I'd seen more than one season! And that it wasn't cancelled.

Sara said...

I wish that I'd seen more than one season! And that it wasn't cancelled.

I know, I was pretty disappointed. Unfortunately, I think that its cancellation was most due to off-screen debacles and controversies.

Which season did you watch?

Leee said...

I checked the Wikipedia entry on the Oz's controversies -- they seem like relatively thin reasons to cancel a show over, but that's my opinion. In any case, sad.

I watched the third season -- which kind of parallels the MM thing with three whole Jesses/Jessicas. I was surprised at how the show treated HHers, much like how the US version treats ballroomers.

Sara said...


True, but I'm sure it played a part. In the end, it wouldn't have mattered if the ratings were high.

They were the only ones challenging the dancers further without forsaking the show's format.

All 3 seasons were good, I'd probably pick Season 2, just because it had the best personalities.

Ana said...

I'm back-reading, so...

The GIS Sarah Silverman thing?
I had that while trying to see who Joy Spears from season 2 was.
(Hint: very NSFW, a porn star.)

Was it Aussie season 3, by any chance :) ?
For me, that is the best season of any SYTYCD anywhere ever. (And I think I watched all the Anglo ones.)

Had the same problem with ovation-causing performances, especially the statue one.

The costume department for the quickstep... Every time, every single time I saw Iveta in the past few years I had to pick up my jaw from the floor because I'd just go "Her legs! Sweet Lord, her legs!" and they were hidden.
(SYTYCD should stop introducing quickstep as the dance of death and maybe it will stop being one.)

Eh, I'll just end here my season-particular comments for this post.

SYTYCD-general comment:
I think it's getting more and more lost in its narratives.

It's okay to see someone doing good in a foreign style or somebody excel overall or show maturity beyond one's age/baby-face and it woven into a underdog/talent and hard work/even coming of age (ugh!) arc, but...

They're not weaving anymore, they're blatantly forcing people into narratives, almost completely ignoring the quality of their dancing.
"We need X to succeed and fit the story Y, so his dance will be good."

You can get away with it on a smaller scale, but the way they've done for... the last 2 season at the least just makes me listen to their critique with LOLWUT.

The only ray of hope is if the guest judge has a mind outside the script.

(Please excuse my English - the longer the comment and the later the hour, the worse and the fuzzier it gets.)